I never considered working with a naturopathic doctor until my husband and I experienced a miscarriage earlier this year.
We met with four different OB-GYNs for followup, and I found myself getting more and more frustrated with every conversation.
Every time I brought up my concerns about low progesterone, I felt like my opinion was disregarded - they told me "not to worry" and "you'll be fine." They never offered to order a blood panel to test my hormones, and I wanted to know all the facts and data around this situation.
So I had the idea to visit a naturopath, and as a fan of holistic methods, I was very excited to start working with one.
In this post, I'm sharing:
why I decided to work with a naturopath
what a naturopathic doctor is and what you should look for
the top 3 people you should have in your inner health circle
what conversations are worth having if you work with a naturopath
1. Why I Wanted to Work with a Naturopath
There is only one person in this world who knows your body better than anyone - YOU!
If something feels off or not quite right, it's something to pay attention to. A woman's intuition is very strong and always leads her in the right direction.
What made me reach out to a naturopath was the understanding I have of my past hormone imbalance of low progesterone. After we miscarried, some of those same symptoms came back that I hadn't experienced in nearly five years, which made me very concerned about conceiving again. It also made me question if we did get pregnant again, could I maintain a healthy pregnancy?
After my first session with the naturopath, I felt a huge sense of relief.
Our session was virtual, which I appreciated during these COVID filled times. She listened to everything I had to say before asking follow up questions. I had already done all my blood work through Let's Get Checked, an at-home hormone testing company, and was able to screen-share my results.
These were the tests I had already taken and was able to share with her:
(You can get your hormones tested at home too! Save 20% off your purchase with my code BOMBSHELLS).
The symptoms I was experiencing kept pinpointing to a slightly low thyroid and low progesterone (I've studied symptoms enough to be able to know which organs may be struggling and how to pinpoint). She was able to confirm that I was experiencing slightly "subclinical" numbers in my thyroid, and having a miscarriage could have lowered progesterone. She made me feel heard and like it wasn't all in my head.
To be clear, I'm not against western medicine. I'm all for it. But they read our blood work differently than a holistic practitioner. And at this point in my life, I need someone who can look for subclinical signs in my blood work. You can still showcase symptoms far before getting to the "disease" range, which is what western doctors screen for.
Two weeks after I spoke with the naturopath, we found out we were pregnant again! Watch our pregnancy reveal here.
We were over the moon, but I felt very anxious. I booked another session and asked her if I should get my progesterone and thyroid tested again. She also thought it was a good idea.
Thankfully, my healthcare provider is able to order blood work when I ask for it, so I was able to walk into their open lab to get it done. My results are uploaded into an online dashboard for me to view, which is great for accessibility and transparency. Both of these tests I had to pay for out of pocket, and they were worth every penny.
I emailed the results to my naturopath, who confirmed that my T3 level (one of our thyroid hormones) was slightly low. She wanted to see my progesterone at least at a level 20. Before getting pregnant the first time, it was at 24, and at six weeks pregnant, it had dropped to 11.6! Just 0.2 above what would cause western doctors concern!
While my practitioner said "congratulations, you're good!", my naturopath told me to get on progesterone supplementation immediately to save a healthy pregnancy (too low levels can cause the placenta to not fully form and your body won't be able to maintain a healthy pregnancy) and use throughout the first trimester, which I did.
She also wanted me to go on a low dose thyroid medication for the duration of pregnancy. If I wasn't pregnant, I would have chosen natural alternatives, but pregnancy demands a lot from our thyroid and medication was important for me at this time.
I called my healthcare provider, and they wouldn't prescribe either medication. My blood work in their eyes was "fine", so they thought I didn't need intervention. At first, I was a mess. I was still in a grief state of having a miscarriage, and they made me feel very unsupported.
Because my naturopath was out of state (more clarity in the next section), she also couldn't prescribe the medication I needed. So I found another local naturopath who specialized in fertility, and she was able to give me a second opinion. She agreed with everything the first naturopath had recommended, and I was able to get a prescription for both medications.
Again, our insurance wouldn't cover this, but it was worth every penny - we are now in our 8th month of pregnancy with a happy and healthy baby boy! (Watch our gender reveal!)
Both of these naturopathic doctors were able to help me at a time I really needed the additional support. I resonated most with the out-of-state practitioner and was able to email her with a few pregnancy concerns as we progressed:
which supplements to actually take while pregnant (there's a lot of information and advice out there)
what habits I really didn't need to change even though "everyone" says they're not safe for pregnancy
suggestions for some herbal blends that would help my liver detox the excess pregnancy hormones, which eased sleep issues and pregnancy constipation #gamechanger
access to another herbal blend that I'll start taking at 36 weeks to prep the uterus for delivery and help position the baby for an on time delivery. I can also use it for the few weeks postpartum to help bring the uterus back into place.
It was extremely helpful to be able to talk to someone and cut through the mountain of advice online. She will be forever in my inner health circle.
2. What is a Naturopathic Doctor and What You Should Look For
Naturopathy is an alternative form of medicine that focuses on whole patient care, meaning they take a whole person approach to your health care - mind, body, and spirit.
A naturopathic doctor can be either "traditional" or "licensed".
The AANMC, Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges outlines "a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND/NMD) is a primary care physician who is trained to diagnose and prescribe (medication), while a traditional naturopath is not able to do either."
When looking for a naturopathic doctor, I would highly recommend searching for one that is licensed and not traditional. Many states don't mandate the work of traditional naturopathic doctors, and it is best to find someone who can actually diagnose and treat you.
The last thing to look for is to make sure the doctor is in your state, as I shared my experience earlier in this post. Most can't prescribe outside of their state, so I actually had to pay double for services. Just something to note if you ever look to work with one.
3. The 3 People You Should Have in Your Inner Health Circle
Your inner health circle should be made up of professional resources you can turn to for all your health care needs. I highly suggest women have all of these three:
1. Primary Care Physician/OB-GYN
You should always keep your primary care physician or OB-GYN. You want to get regular checkups each year and have them screen different areas to your health.
2. Women's Health Coach
I acted as my own women's health coach, and I would recommend finding someone to work with who specializes in functional medicine and offers coaching services. You either resonate with me or you can find someone else who shares your philosophy.
Women's health coaches look at your body deeper in regards to your hormone and organ function. Meeting with a regular health coach, in my opinion, would be a waste of your money. They are not trained in the woman's cycle, nor do they know how to use food to target your various symptoms and promote better organ function, which further balances your mind and body. I believe we should be specific and targeted with our habits and general health coaches are not trained in this way.
Working with a women's health coach will also give you the weekly support and accountability you need as you create new habits. You have someone who you can have these conversations with, talk out your options and create customized plans based on your personal preferences.
If I wasn't already a women's health coach, I would have actively searched for one. To balance my hormones before this stage of my life, I also followed the Balanced Bombshells Lifestyle Plan, which can be a great place to get started to understanding your hormonal health.
3. Naturopathic Doctor
The last person in your inner health circle should be a naturopathic doctor - someone who is licensed and can diagnose and treat you. Many will turn to holistic measures before medication and can read your blood work on a deeper level than your OB-GYN or primary care physician.
These doctors are great for sporadic check-ins and getting your medical questions answered. They aren't typically there to provide weekly support and guidance like a women's health coach would.
4. What Conversations Should You Have with a Naturopath?
When meeting with a naturopath, you should either already be prepared with your blood work or ask them what tests you should ask for based on your symptoms. Many you can get through your health care provider, others you can get directly through a naturopath. Most insurances do not cover these services so it is an additional expense out of pocket or if you have an HSA account. Having the data from your blood work is key so you're not shooting in the dark to what's wrong.
I believe in strategic hormone balance, and if you don't know what's wrong, you will try a million and one things, feeling frustrated to "nothing working". When we know the root cause, only then we can get the support we need.
You can ask questions related to:
your monthly cycle
fertility, pregnancy and/or postpartum
skin or headache issues
supplements you need
reading your bloodwork from having your vitamins and hormones tested, and asking for recommendations for improvement
Finding someone who had the same philosophy on health as I do - that it is a complete picture on your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health - has been invaluable. I've studied hormones enough to know your mindset and deep rooted fears can dictate how your organs function. And going through a big hormone swing, like a miscarriage or postpartum, was important for me to get the additional help I needed.
I hope this helps clarify and open your mind to considering alternative options to your health. As women, we must always advocate for ourselves and the health care system is just another layer on getting the support you need.
Have you ever worked with a naturopathic doctor before? What has been your experience?